I’m sure we have all been at a show where a horse has got loose in the lorry park or seen a horse dump their rider during a race and gallop off alone. In these situations, the horse can often panic, making them harder to catch and can lead to nasty accidents. In all these situations it is important to stop the horse injuring themselves or getting into a dangerous situation, but at what cost to yourself? How should you go about catching a loose horse?
When I was working at the racetrack I was told to never put myself in the position where I could be injured trying to catch a loose horse. This was largely due to their insurance! But at the same time, I did not fancy standing in front of a galloping racehorse in blind panic mode! So here are my top 5 tips for helping to catch a loose horse.
Know your body language
Depending on how the horse is behaving in that moment and what your aim is should reflect in your body language. If the horse is galloping in your direction and you want them to stop or not go past you, then you need to make yourself big and scary. Sticking your arms out and waving them is a good way to do this. However, if the horse has come to a stop and you are going to try and catch them, you need to have quiet, inviting body language.
When a horse is loose, people will shout “Loose Horse” to let everyone know. If someone far away shouts loose horse, you should probably shout this too to alert others to this. However, not everyone in a crowd needs to shout this. Just enough for everyone in the area to know what is happening. If you hear loose horse try and locate where the horse is currently and where the horse is heading as this will help you decide what’s the best action to take.
Block off dangerous areas and contain
When a horse is loose, it is important to try and contain them and block off any dangerous areas. This could involve shutting gates and blocking exits onto the road, rivers etc. If there is no physical object to block the exit you should try standing in the way and shooing the horse away from this area. But this quickly leads me onto my next point…
Don’t be a hero!
If that horse is not stopping get out the way! As much as you want the horse to be caught and be safe, you do not want to get knocked flying and/or trampled. Either jump out the way of the horse or if they are starting to slow down, step to the side and see if you can grab the reins as they go past you. But don’t put yourself in danger trying to stop them!
Where possible, allow a familiar face to catch the horse.
Obviously in some situations it is important to get the horse back under control as quickly as possible. But in an enclosed area with the horse slowing down, coming to a stop, if someone who knows the horse is around, let them be the one to approach the horse. The horse will be less likely to react negatively to this person and is safer for all those involved. Also while it can be tempting to corner the horse once is has steadied up, this could cause them to panic and flee again. Stay back and allow one or two people to quietly approach the horse.